Please help me kill it, for everyone’s sake.

Dedicated team player with strong work ethic and great organizing skills seeking to utilize training and competencies to leverage value toward company goals in a growth-oriented, goal-driven environment.

– Generic résumé Objective statement derived from parroted “business-speak”

There are two major problems with the Objective as an element of a successful, up-to-date résumé. Together they make a convincing case to condemn its use for both targeted and general purposes. Here is why the résumé Objective has got to go – and more importantly, what to write in its place for better results.

First, for the targeted application – where you are tailoring your résumé for a specific position – it tells the employer nothing he or she doesn’t already know. “Seeking a position as [Job X] with [Some Firm]” only reiterates information that is self-evident from the situation: that you’re submitting an application for Job X to Some Firm’s HR recruitment website. So addressing the Objective toward a specific job is essentially redundant – and worse, it wastes precious space (yours) and time (the reviewer’s) that ought to be used to gain attention with a confident, informative pitch based on your fundamental qualifications.

Second, for more generalized uses – where you’re writing a universal “template” résumé to have on-hand the next time you’re asked for one, but don’t yet know exactly which employers will find it relevant or for what context – the Objective as typically framed presents a terrible predicament for a writer qua writer. Since the prompt implied by the very title “Objective” is speculative (i.e. one’s as-yet unattained job or career development goals; something sought but not yet realized), it induces one to write about the future without the benefit of enough experiential hindsight to make this goal statement meaningful and concrete.

In short, the general résumé Objective violates the Prime Directive of Writing: Write what you know. No wonder, then, that even the most skillful and well-informed efforts can result in weak, unconvincing writing; hence a missed opportunity to make a strong first impression from the top line of one’s professional identity as presented on paper. Given that most hiring reviewers only look at solicited résumés for a few seconds each before deciding Yes, Maybe or No, this is an unconscionable waste you simply cannot afford. It won’t matter how deep your skills and experience run throughout the document if you can’t immediately entice a time-conscious reviewer to do more than dip their toes in the water.

Luckily, there is a solution for this quandary that is at once disruptively innovative and self-evidently sensible: write a Summary (or Profile) statement instead. Depending on the outline you follow, the résumé summary may still include an Objective, either specific or general, but the key difference is that you start off writing about yourself, which puts you on a stronger footing both as a writer and a job applicant. Here’s the three-sentence recipe I recommend.

1. Introduce yourself, leading off with your main credential PLUS core competence AND/OR area of greatest experience. For example, a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering who has held multiple positions as a lab assistant and completed several successful group projects might write something like the following:

Master of Chemical Engineering with competence in recommended laboratory procedures and productive experience in collaborative projects.

Although it’s fairly loaded with SEO-friendly “keyword hits”, it’s not larded with them or rambling on to the extent that the sentence is unwieldy or confusing. (See my counter-example at the top; what the heck does that hash of business-speak actually mean?) The introduction may – and probably should – include some technical verbiage but structurally it should be simple, elegant, and right to the point: “Here I am, this is my credential,” with the implied subtext being, “I am qualified to work and converse with others in this field.”

2. Add your specialty, which can either be established from experience and formal training or speculatively aligned with your career development goals:

Specializes in petro-chemical process engineering.

Or perhaps:

Pursuing specialization in process efficiency and sustainability best practices.

Note that I’m using the term “specialization” more broadly than in the formal academic sense. One may have a specialty of technical expertise without necessarily having it explicitly listed as such on one’s program of study – although it’s obviously fine to go with that for this piece, if you happen to have it. I often use the analogy of a “platform and tower” to explain how core competence and specialization complement each other. One’s core competence is the foundational “platform” of one’s skillset(s) – i.e. the learning that raises one’s technical knowledge in a defined area above the lay level. Specialization, then, is a smaller region within that area of core expertise that raises the bar of capability even higher, like a “tower” mounted on a platform. One may have multiple competencies and/or specializations (eventually) but for the sake of an initial résumé summary it’s best just to focus on one of each.

3. State the Objective. Now that you’ve pushed off from a strong footing by beginning the Summary with your best-known subject – yourself – you can stretch out into speculative territory without seeming too wishy-washy or verbose.

Seeking position as Process Engineer with Acme Products Ltd. [specific position]

OR:

Seeking opportunities to contribute to organizational goals and develop project management skills. [general career development goal]

Notice that the second, generally goal-oriented version is more nebulous and wordy; it needs the anchor of the solid facts that preceded it to justify its presence here. I also took care to put the employer’s needs first in that case, even if I have only a rough idea exactly what those needs are yet. With either type of superseded objective approach, though, you will have by now addressed the basic Journalistic W’s that make up the “lede” of your résumé’s “story”: Who is writing this? What are the writer’s qualifications? Why have I (the reviewer) received it? And hopefully, if the rest of your narrative backing up this lead-off summary is equally strong, soon enough you’ll be asked the question you really want to answer: “When can you start?”

Just as there are multiple themes and variations for résumé formatting, there are many alternative outlines for a Summary statement; a Google search yields myriad options from which to pick and choose (see links below for other examples). However you decide to shape it, according to your own preferences and purpose, I cannot overemphasize how superior is the Summary to the Objective as an effective lede for a résumé. Write whatever works for you – just be sure that it works better than the phony example Objective I concocted above! Here’s another example crafted from my own profile:

Bachelor of Political Science with a passion for Architecture and Urbanism, offering core competence in spoken and written English communication. Specializes as writing coach for résumés, cover letters, and architectural portfolios. Seeking opportunities to apply skills in advisory role for collegiate market.

Thanks for reading … and good hunting!

The Résumé Objective Must Die

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *